No one wants to be in the middle of making dinner and have the stove stop working, or have the refrigerator suddenly stop keeping things cold just after shopping for groceries. With a little attention and maintenance, you could avoid being in this situation and possibly save thousands of dollars. Here is a short list of things you can do yourself in a matter of minutes that could prolong the life of your appliances.
Take Care of the Oven
- Check the Oven Seals
Is your food taking longer to cook? Is half the lasagna still cold? This could be due to an oven door that is no longer sealing correctly. An oven can lose more than 20 percent of it’s heat without a proper seal. To see if this is your oven’s issue, open the oven door and locate the rubber or fiberglass gasket on the perimeter of the door. If you find any broken, torn or warped areas of the door close it. If you feel leaks then you need to replace this seal. Be careful not to touch anything when it is hot!
- Re-calibrate the Oven Temperature
Another issue that could be causing food to be cooked unevenly is that the temperature setting may need to be re-calibrated. Use a good quality oven thermometer to find where the oven maintains a constant temperature. Follow the procedure in the oven’s manual to re-calibrate and set the temperature control to match the thermometer.
Don’t Forget the Stove
- Clean Up Spills
Stove burners that won’t turn on could be due to spilled food. On a gas stove you can use a toothbrush to clean food spills from the igniter. If you have an electric ignition stove clean off the ceramic nub that sits near the ceramic seal strike plate. Once you’ve cleaned the spill make sure that burners and plates are sitting back on the burner correctly. Don’t forget to clean out spills from drip bowls that sit under the burner as well.
- Clean the Range Hood
Many stoves have a range hood or downdraft vent filter above them. These can collect grease and dust over time so it’s important to clean them frequently. If they are metal-mesh you can clean them by hand in soapy water or run them through the dishwasher. Filters that are paper or charcoal should be replaced completely, do not attempt to wash them.
Give the Refrigerator a Once Over
- Clean the Gaskets and seals
Much like the oven, the refrigerator has seals that can wear down and cause leaks over time that will keep it from running correctly. Clean sticky foods and drinks off of the doors gaskets or they will seal it to the frame causing you to pull harder to open the door. Over time pulling harder on the door will tear the gasket and cost you money in repairs. Use a sponge and warm water to clean the door often, do not use any detergents as this can also damage the gaskets.
- Clear the Coils of Debris
Over time dust, dirt, and pet hair can get in the way of the coils and cause air flow to be restricted. This can cause the refrigerator to work harder to keep things cool. You should clean the coils once or twice a year. Use a small handheld vacuum or hose attachment to clean the coils and clean off those loose particles. Most refrigerators have these coils on the back of the unit or behind the kick plate. Your owner’s manual will tell you where your model has them located.
Clean up the Garbage Disposal
- Don’t Overload it
If you think the disposal has a clog turn it off and look down the drain, using a pair of tongs or another tool remove large stuck items. Pour a mixture of ice cubes and salt or vinegar down the drain and run cold water for 10 seconds then turn on the unit to help clear out the rest of the blockage. Don’t forget that all disposals have an overload feature that will automatically shut it down if it gets overloaded and gets too hot. You can find this button either on the side or under the unit, push it once the unit cools and your disposal should be reset.
- Get rid of Smells
If your disposal has a less than pleasant odor, place a handful of orange peels in the disposal while running water and turn it on to help deodorize it. Be sure to lift the splash guard flaps and scrub them with a toothbrush and cleaning solution to remove grease and crud.
Keep the Dishwasher Clean
- Check the filter
Over time food and other particles can collect in the filter of the dishwasher making it so that water cannot get to the arms to clean the dishes well. You can fix this by pulling out the lower rack and removing the filter cover in the center of the dishwasher, it should be easy to spot but your user’s manual can help if you cannot locate it. You can then use a wet/dry vacuum to clean off the screen area. You should also clean the float switch with water while moving it up and down to be sure it doesn’t stick.
- Repair rusty tines
Since dishwashers use water and detergents constantly it’s possible for the tines to become rusty. This rust can transfer to your dishes and silverware if you don’t take care of it quickly. You can purchase a repair kit at most hardware stores to place new tips on top of them. Use a strong adhesive to keep the new tines in place and wait at least one hour to run the dishwasher to be sure they are secured.
Check the Washer and Dryer
- Inspect the Washing Machine
It may seem like filling the washing machine will save you time, but in reality it can cause it to work harder and cause damage that can be costly. Avoid overloading the washer and the dryer to save time. Look at the machines belts and motors to be sure there are no major issues or signs of extra wear. Check your hoses on the back for any deformities, cracks, weak spots or small leaks. If you find any such issues you should replace the hoses, they should also be replaced every five years.
- Help your dryer heat up
If you feel like the dryer isn’t getting quite warm enough or isn’t drying the clothes properly check the lint filter and dryer exhausts. You should clean the filter off every single time you start a load to keep it clean. Sometimes even though the filter looks clean it may have an invisible film from the use of dryer sheets, this film can reduce air flow and cause the machine to shut off the heat thinking it’s hot enough. Take the filter to the sink and pour water over it, if it holds water you need to clean it. Use warm water, laundry detergent and a stiff brush to clean this film.
- Clean out the exhaust hose
You should also periodically check the dryer exhaust vent as it can reduce efficiency and be a fire hazard. You can clean it out by loosening the clamp and pull of the exhaust hose. Remove large clumps from the hose and the back of the dryer with your hands, and if you’re having trouble reaching use a straightened coat hanger to gently remove it. Vacuum and reattach.
These simple maintenance tips not only prolong the life of your device, they will also save you from costly repair bills.